Cheap and modular field macro rig for Raynox 250 at 0.5x-3x

A forum to ask questions, post setups, and generally discuss anything having to do with photomacrography and photomicroscopy.

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zzffnn
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Cheap and modular field macro rig for Raynox 250 at 0.5x-3x

Post by zzffnn »

I was asked by Saul, so I will show my cheap and modular field macro rig for Raynox 250 and 0.5x-3x on-senor (18mm wide micro 4/3 sensor).

First, here is my test results using a shiny lady beetle, at 1x on-senor, using flash power at around 1/32 + 0.7:
Image

Using the same exact rig the same exact way (without any change except for the telephoto lens zooming longer behind Raynox 250), here is what I got from 3x on-senor, hand-held at standing position, using flash power at around 1/32 + 0.7:
Image

This rig is based on Raynox DCR-250 screwed onto a 100-300mm micro four thirds telephoto zoom lens, or onto a 40-150mm zoom lens. On-senor magnification is 0.5x to 1.6x (from 40-150mm lens) or 1x to 3x (from 100-300mm lens).

Working distance (from Raynox 250 to subject, not including diffuser/reflector/flash protrusions) is constant at around 100mm, which I like for this magnification range (I tried to shot macro when subjects are not moving much).

I use a single Godox TT350 flash ($65 used, TTL via remote cable), along with a removable reflector and a diffuser with 3 layers concave half ping-pong balls and 2+2 layers of Vellum paper.

If Raynox DCR-150 is used, around 200m of working distance will be obtained, which is more suitable for larger and more skittish subjects. I used a 45 degree diffuser rig (which I will not talk about in this thread to avoid diversion and confusion) similar to this guy's: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/few-macro ... ia.104538/
And here is my result from 2017, using Raynox 150 rig (note this image has a very large crop):
Image.

Going back for my Raynox 250 rig. Here it is assembled and ready to go:
Image

The concave half on the right of the above photo is a reflector. Going from its outside to inside, we have:
1) a matte white dish soap container that is stiff and flexible;
2) a layer of aluminum foil taped to dish soap container; and
3) a layer of Vellum paper taped to dish soap container.

The reflector is simply mounted via friction and can be removed within 3 seconds, to make a more compact rig to get inside plant leaves.

The concave half on the left of the above photo is a diffuser, which is also mounted via friction. Both the diffuser and reflector can freely rotate 360 degrees quickly.

Here is the rig disassembled: Image
From left to right of the above photo, we have:
1) Raynox 250 mounted via lens front thread adapter to telephoto lens;
2) m42 extension tubes of about 55 mm long, with taped-on foams to provide friction mount;
3) Godox TT350 flash taped to diffuser; and
4) reflector

Here is a close-up of the concave diffuser design:
Image

Going from outside to inside of the diffuser, we have:
1) a Godox TT350 TTL flash taped to some foam block riser for correct light angle;
2) 3 half mini beer pong balls that are much smaller than ping pong balls, taped to flash head;
3) 2 layers of Vellum paper taped to beer pong balls;
4) a regular sized ping pong ball half (abut 1/3 to be precise), taped to the outside of dish soap container;
5) 2 layers of Vellum paper taped between ping pong ball half and dish soap container;
6) a matte white dish soap container that is stiff and flexible.

Inspiration of my diffuser design came from John Kimbler / forum member Dalantech: https://www.deviantart.com/dalantech/ar ... -792300795

I made significant changes to his design, because I am using m4/3 cameras, for which there is no macro flash option at < USD $100. And I require, additionally:
1) high modularity and ability to remove reflector quickly on-the-spot to get lens+flash into plant leaves; and
2) to use Raynox 250 for constant working distance at 0.5x-3x.

I called this rig cheap, because I already have those two zoom lenses for bird photography. Raynox 250 costs about $65 shipped. Godox TT350 costs $65 for an open-box display and can be removed for regular photography. TTL cable for Olympus costs about $15-$20 shipped. Matte white dish soap container costs about $2 each from Target (USA) and you need two.

So there you go; this macro rig is cheap, cheerful, modular, versatile, light weight and works quite well.
Last edited by zzffnn on Thu Jun 27, 2019 5:39 pm, edited 4 times in total.

zzffnn
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Post by zzffnn »

For those of you who are inspired by this design, I ask that you improve over this rig and report back with your improvements, if you are kind enough.

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Nice work, the Raynox 250 and telephoto are working well together and these translucent plastic bottles come in very handy for diffusers!!

The white styrofoam cups also work well as diffusers and have a good WB, but have more attenuation than the translucent cups/bottles. I use them often, many times inside a diffusion tent for higher levels of diffusion.

Makes me think of using the Raynox 250 the way it was intended rather than only as a "tube" lens :roll:

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

zzffnn
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Post by zzffnn »

Mike,

Translucent white container + a few layers of Vellum paper separated by concave half balls woupd work well for many subjects.

For subjects too large for ping pong balls to contain: Hobby Lobby sells clear Christmas tree balls that are not difficult to cut into halves. You can coat the with Vellum paper to make them translucent.

For subjects much smaller than ping pong balls, those mini beer pong balls will work.

I forgot to mention that the ping pong ball half idea came from Charles Krebs.

I also think that styrofoam cups take away too much light. For moving subjects or windy weather, they may reduce stopping power. Another con is how fragile they are; they won't survive in my macro backpack in the field.

Those translucent white container are both durable and flexible enough for DIY. The container I bought was Mrs. Meyer's Liquid Dish Soap from my local Target; they also have a $15/bottle baby shampoo bottle (Honest brand) that works well. I have a young son that uses that shampoo, so I switched out the bottle from my wife (yes, she was mad).

Saul
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Post by Saul »

Thanks, Fan !
Looks like lot of diffusion material - what power/ISO/f/shutter settings you are using ?

Is the diffuser not too long ? Does it scare the insects?

zzffnn
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Post by zzffnn »

Saul wrote:Thanks, Fan !
Looks like lot of diffusion material - what power/ISO/f/shutter settings you are using ?

Is the diffuser not too long ? Does it scare the insects?
Saul,

My flash power is usually used at 1/32 + 0.7 to 1/16.
iso 200 to 320

Shutter speed /160 to 1/200, but I always try to go lower than 1/160

The reflector can be removed quickly, leaving just the diffuser. It is still long but works better with shy critters. The spider photos you saw were taken with only the diffuser.

The diffuser and reflector combined did scare away some active and shy critters. They go around and beyond the critter in focus, so are best used in early morning/late evening or when they are sleeping/feeding/mating.

I have another short adapter sleeve that does not have the protruding diffuser. That would leave the diffused flash head as the only protrusion. I take that short sleeve along with tape and scissors and can switch to it within a few minutes. This live and active hoverfly was photographed that way:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/zzffnn/32 ... ed-public/

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Fan,

I mostly do studio work, so not too concerned about how fragile things are. For field use this is certainly an issue. Agree the styrofoam cups eat light, but with strobes this isn't an issue either.

For a lager half-dome the 120mm wide Godox Witstro Wide Angel Diffuser is really nice and WB compensated. These are cheap too, about $11.

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

Saul
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Post by Saul »

Have you seen this diffuser :

https://flic.kr/p/tSeJp7
https://flic.kr/p/uSR21z
https://flic.kr/p/udphdH

Results are very interesting:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/hellomumu/

But, again - size !

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Saul,

That's a really nice diffuser. Construction well documented and the results speak for themselves :D

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

zzffnn
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Post by zzffnn »

Saul wrote:Have you seen this diffuser :

https://flic.kr/p/tSeJp7
https://flic.kr/p/uSR21z
https://flic.kr/p/udphdH

Results are very interesting:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/hellomumu/

But, again - size !
That one is essentially the same as my diffuser for Raynox 150, which I used in 2017. Please see my opening post.

Yes, it is slightly too bulky and it is hard to get around it:

If you pull the speedlite away from the subject, then you will need bigger diffuser;

If you push the speedlite towards the subject, then you can use a smaller diffuser.

It depends on what compromise you are willing to take :twisted:

Chris S.
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Post by Chris S. »

Fan, kudos for posting details on your diffuser setup. :D

Perhaps you won't mind a suggestion: In your illustrations, your flash is positioned very close to your diffuser--so close that only part of the diffuser is illuminated. And of course, only the portion illuminated is actually used. So I suspect you could get more even light by adding distance between the flash and the diffuser, so as to illuminate as much of the diffuser as possible.

In these two images, you show your flash to be very close to the diffuser:

Image

Image

Unsurprisingly, this results in hot spots in each of your subject images:

Image

Image

Image

My bet is that your setup would produce much less hot-spotting if modified to move the flash farther from the diffuser (far enough that most of the diffuser is illuminated). Sorry if I'm being picky! Just that this is an issue that seems to be missed by many members of our forum--including very knowledgeable photographers.

Also, I find that nearly every macro photo I shoot is better if I use at least two light sources. Time and again, I've made images with a single light source and reflector, only to find that two light sources and reflectors give a much better look. So with your setup, I'd be very tempted to add a second flash illuminating the right diffuser.

Cheers,

--Chris S.

mawyatt
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Post by mawyatt »

Chris,

Good points.

The diffuser becomes the light source for the subject as "seen" from the subjects view, not the flash.

This is why I don't need to get my strobes up close to my chip subjects, just make sure to illuminate the 1st level diffuser completely, which then evenly illuminates the 2nd level diffuser for a very uniform light source for the subject. Also using multiple strobes and reflectors for fully illuminating the 1st level diffusion.

Very good points indeed!!

Best,
Research is like a treasure hunt, you don't know where to look or what you'll find!
~Mike

zzffnn
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Post by zzffnn »

Thank you, gents.

The photo with the live lady beetle on plant was actually taken in 2017 with flash pulled back away from diffuser; if you go back and re-read my first post, you will understand. And that photo was made with my Raynox 150 rig in 2017, which is completely different than my current Raynox 250 rig. But I do agree that diffusion there can be better.

I did some experiment today, comparing flash raised up twice the original height vs. original height (40mm). Any higher the field macro rig will be too bulky. With different diffusion, I could reduce hot spot either way; there was almost no difference between 80mm flash height vs 40mm flash height. Changing TT350 flash's focal length from 105mm to 26mm did not change much either. Here is what different diffusion looks like:

Less hot spot with new diffusion, same 40 mm height (sorry for the strange rotation effect, I did it for better 1024 crop):
Image

Original diffusion, same height:
Image

Crop of new diffusion:
Image

Crop of original diffusion:
Image

I cannot pick a favorite from those two; they are just different. New diffusion has less hot spot for sure, but it projected diffuser's white color more onto the beetle's shell and changed its original color (you will see the change, when you compare colors in areas around the hot spots). I personally do not like that. Depending on the subject, I may actually accept more hot spot to get more faithful colors.

I have tried many different diffusion arrangements, but more diffusion always means changing original colors more towards diffuser's color. Even translucent Vellum paper will add white color, if multiple layers are used.

I tried to use minimal amount of (white) ping pong ball halves or (translucent) Vellum paper, and use more clear plate with tiny "prism"s to avoid adding white color, but color change remained.

Is there a better diffusion material that I should try?

I do plan to add another speedlite. But that is for convenience and versatility, instead of making light softer. As you can see on left hand (reflector) sides of my photos, the light there was/is actually softer than the right hand diffuser/flash side. I do agree that multiple lights will make light softer in some other applications.

Sure, in studio macro, I can make a tiny diffuser to match lady beetle's 7mm size and make the diffuser almost touching the beetle (to appear big from subject's point of view). I know I will get almost no hot spot that way. But I made this rig for handheld in-the-field shooting live /shy insects. I am not sure I can get my diffuser any closer to live subjects, unless they are sleeping/eating/mating. I have to accept some compromise to make this rig easy to use in the field.

Have a great one,
Fan

zzffnn
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Post by zzffnn »

I switched to using microlens diffusers now and obtained better light efficiency and less color changes. My speedlite is currently used at 1/64, compared to 1/32+0.7 previously. Less white color is added by diffusion, because now I only have to use one layer of Vellum paper instead of two layers previously. Resulting images are almost the same as my latest images above (which has less hot spot than the "original").

I used two of this micro-lens diffusers (Mouser still has at least 80 of them for USD $2.97 each): https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/928-14707IDA16O

My Godox TT350 flash has a head area of 28 x 57 mm. The microlens diffuser has surface of about 50 x 50 mm.

I basically fix one microlens about 13mm in front of the flash head, then fix a 2nd microlens about 18mm in front of the first microlens. Then I place a layer of Vellum paper in front of the 2nd microlens (this diffusion layer is necessary). That is it. I suspect only one microlens diffuser is necessary, with subjects less reflective that lady beetles.

As a frame to host two microlenses, I use a bigger translucent diffuser head (such as the $1 diffuser for Godox TT685: eBay 293017437914) and cut off the front panel. Then I used clear tape to fix microlenses inside and on the frame.

I tried different orientations and arrangements. I believe it is difficult to avoid adding white color from diffusion to subject colors. When I removed the Vellum layer (so flash light only goes through clean microlenses), I got better color fidelity, with the penalty of harsher light. To my eyes, one Vellum layer is a good compromise.

Please note that different microlens produces different light-spreading angle. The microlens that I use bends light to almost 90 degrees on one side (my Mouser looks almost indentical to this Ledil one): https://www.ledil.com/product-card/?pro ... 77_IDA16-O
I do not think an bending angle of less that 70 degrees would work as well.

MarkSturtevant
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Post by MarkSturtevant »

I did not know about the smaller ping pong balls. There are also giant ping pong balls (I think about tennis ball size) that you can get on Amazon.
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters

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